Go ahead. Take a break.

Photo of woman sitting on a bench by a tree looking out over a riverYesterday, I presented a breakout session at the annual Businesswomen’s Conference, created every year by the Bentonville Arkansas Chamber of Commerce.

This was its 21st year, and they do a fantastic job; it always sells out well in advance, and each year seems to get better (with the possible exception of the plain green salad they consider an adequate lunch for vegetarians!).

Conferences tend to have an unintentional undercurrent theme alongside the stated theme, and this was no exception. The stated theme was “The Power Of You” – and the undercurrent was, in essence, “don’t burn yourself out.”

Interesting contrast, no?

All three of the keynotes – morning, lunchtime, and afternoon – had at least some element of this undercurrent, as well as the two breakout sessions I was able to attend. Looking at the other breakout topics, I suspect many of them were similarly aligned. Even my topic – “Managing your Inner Critic: how to stop the rotten-tomato fight in your head” – had some of those “don’t overload yourself” elements.

It wasn’t because we were all talking about that favorite (and in my opinion over-discussed) women’s personal and professional growth theme of “self care,” because we weren’t.

I think it’s because women today tend to drive themselves relentlessly in the pursuit of their careers and support of their families. As I said to one of the women who attended my session, it breaks my heart to see the ways in which we are still fighting equality battles that should have been resolved decades ago. And so much of what we do – and I know I’m not alone in this – is because we think we have to, or we know no one else will do it (and it legitimately does need to happen), or we need / want to live up to others’ expectations… and on, and on, and on.

And so many of the women I know are just plain tired.

If that sounds like you – whether you’re a woman or a man! – then go ahead. Take a break. Take what a colleague of mine calls a “hooky day,” like kids used to do (probably still do!) when they snuck out of school. Or what we called, when I was still in corporate (and I imagine corporate employees still call!) a “mental health day.”

A hooky day or mental health day is different from a vacation.

And it’s fun, in a different way than a vacation.

Try it out. Go ahead. Take a break!